Waza National Park
Two days after Janice and Steven arrived in Buea, the three of us joined Christine, our friend's daughter and the first woman pilot in Cameroon, and started to travel again to the northern part of Cameroon. We were to fly from Douala out to Maroua with two stops, in Yaounde, the capital city, and in Ngaoundere. The flight time including the stop was three and half hours. The exciting event happened not in flight but on the ground before we were allowed to board the plane at Douala Airport. All of us were holders of confirmed tickets, but somehow after we lined up in line for 40 minutes, it was announced that the plane was full and no more seats for the flight would be issued. Fortunately, Christine knew how to take decisive action. Since she knew some of the Cameroon Airline people, she talked with the airport manager, forcefully, without stopping or taking no for an answer! We followed her and walked to the plane directly without passing the security check or paying airport taxes. We boarded the plane without even one boarding pass. All the time, we were wondering what were we going to do if we could not get on that flight. The whole trip to the north could have been cancelled! We did not expect that we would have much choice and certainly did not expect that at the end we would be on that plane. We felt sorry for the poor souls who got bumped at the next stop. One other interesting thing happened on the flight. The pilot announced that there would be a change in schedule so that we were stopping at Maroua before going to Ngaoundere, which is to the south of Maroua. That meant that the flight did some backtracking! We never found out why that happened but we did arrive early!
Waza National Park has an area of 1700 km2. It's flat and has variety of vegetation with quite a lot of water holes. We left Maroua at 4:30 am and got to the park just when the dawn broke at 6:00 am. With a native guide, we safari-ed six hours straight in the south west area of the park. We saw many wild animals, such as antelopes, gazelles, deer, jackals, giraffes, monkeys, and wart hogs; and many birds, such as big cranes (maritou), small finch-size colorful birds, and of course, many different kinds of pelicans. At 12 pm, we went to the Campment to have lunch and to give the driver a rest. From 12~ 3 pm, most of animals are hiding in cool places out of sight anyway. The hill top where we stayed, overlooking the plane below, gave us a view just like the scene in the motion picture "Out of Africa". (Please see the corresponding pictures.)
From 3~6 pm, we returned to the park and drove through areas with pot holes created by elephants, grassy fields, and wet lands to look for lions. Although we did not see any, we saw many lion tracks in several places in the park. We even have a picture to prove that! We were disappointed to learn that all the elephants in the park have migrated 80 km north of the area and we did not see any new elephant tracks. However, the day was certainly an eventful one and much enjoyed by all of us!
The weather in the northern part of Cameroon is much like a desert - very hot in the middle of the day, especially in the sun, and quite comfortable at night. It is also very dry. We found the food not as hot as in the south and there was usually tender beef (!) on the menu when we ate. The driver and our guide at Waza were both Moslems, which is true of more than 65% of the population. They are clearly very devout and prayed several times during the day - whenever we stopped for a view of animals at a water hole. The visit gave us a view of a different part of Cameroon and demonstrated the variety in cultures, language, and climate which are found here. (We met an American woman in Maroua who has spent 25 years in Cameroon trying to establish alphabets for the more than 275 different oral languages spoken in the country!)